The government of Canada has no special programs to grant refugee status to people living in the United States under Temporary Protected Status. Temporary Protected Status in the United States does not entitle anyone to the same status in Canada. Any claims to the contrary are false.
This past spring, Canadians were shocked and saddened to learn that Mavis Korkor Lamyoh Otuteye, a 57-year-old grandmother from Ghana, died trying to get to the northern border of the United States in order to illegally enter Canada. Other people trying to cross illegally into Canada lost their fingers to frostbite because of the cold.
Throughout the summer, we saw even more asylum seekers illegally entering Canada from the United States. As that influx continues, and as the temperature begins to drop, we worry we will face more needless human tragedies.
I describe them as “needless” because we’ve learned that many people are making this dangerous journey based on false information and false promises.
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That’s why Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently sent to Miami Emmanuel Dubourg, an elected member of Canada’s Parliament and an immigrant himself, to get the word out to local leaders and community activists. We spoke with them about this recent influx of asylum seekers crossing into Canada from the United States.
The people with whom we spoke shared that many people in greater Miami are living with uncertainty and fear, and that for some, Canada seems to be the answer. We told them that we were worried that people were making the life-disrupting decision to enter Canada illegally based on misinformation from dubious sources.
For example, social media messages on WhatsApp and other channels have been circulated in the United States suggesting the Canadian government gives asylum seekers a free pass into Canada. This simply is not true. Strict processes are in place for all those seeking refugee protection, regardless of how they enter Canada.
When someone enters Canada illegally outside of a point of entry, they are intercepted and arrested by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Asylum seekers then face a rigorous process to determine whether they have a legitimate claim according to Canadian and international law. There are no shortcuts.
There are no guarantees that an asylum seeker will be able to stay in Canada. If it is determined that a claimant is not in need of Canada’s protection, the country begins the process to remove that individual. Those without status in the United States could very well end up being deported to their countries of birth.
The people we met with in Miami agreed with us. It’s no service to their communities to let people take this risk because of bad information. Now we’re allies in helping to spread accurate information, which can be accessed at www.cic.gc.ca. There, you can find out about the different ways to apply for legal immigration to Canada. For example, if you have a skill our country needs, you can apply to immigrate to Canada through our Express Entry system.
Canada is an open and welcoming country. Canadians and people in Florida are working together to improve the lives of both our peoples through cooperation on economic development, environment and climate change issues, and other exchanges.
We now have an opportunity to avoid a real humanitarian crisis. We were impressed by the local people we met with to discuss this issue, and their dedication to serving their communities.
Let’s keep working together to ensure people don’t take life-changing decisions that will affect them and their families, on the basis of inaccurate information.
Susan Harper, based in Miami, is Consul General for Canada.